A short trip across the Bay Bridge lands you in a group of communities that are diverse, energetic and brimming with opportunities.

A short trip across the Bay Bridge lands you in a group of communities that are diverse, energetic and brimming with opportunities.


Richmond, located on San Pablo Bay is interesting, diverse, changing every day and has very distinct neighborhoods. It is also, the second-most populous city in the county, with over 100,000 residents. Look for a home on the south side and enjoy views of the Bay and the Golden Gate. Then drop into neighboring Berkeley for some fabulous dining and shopping.

Right now, the schools here are middle in test scores but recently bonds totaling almost a half billion dollars have passed to renovate just about every school in the district. Look for some big changes in Richmond!

Pleasant Hill
Pleasant Hill lives up to its name. A simple town with a lovely combination of shops, restaurants and stores all in a charming town center. The school scores high, crime low, activities many. Even the commute is “not bad.” It has the best bookstores and libraries around and the canal trail that runs through town makes it popular for hikers and bicyclists.

Although this town has always hovered between Walnut Creek and Concord, its now lending itself in style and charm more towards Walnut Creek.

This slow-growing town is probably the most prestigious in Contra Costa. The homes are nice, and while some are opulent, most are simple ranch-style houses. It has a cute downtown with shops, restaurants and a movie theater. Some complain about the street noise but they stay because the school rankings are among the highest in the state. It also has a large retirement community.

What makes Lafayette so hot? Almost all grade levels are scoring in the top five perfect in state rankings. Lafayette sends many students to the University of California and to top private universities, Yale, Harvard, Stanford, etc. This dedication to academics appeals to many professional and parents will tell you routinely, they move to Lafayette for the schools.

Lafayette started as a farming community but after 1950 evolved into a suburban town. It is now one of the most prestigious towns in Contra Costa, or in the Bay Area in general.

This is Contra Costa country’s most populous city with a population of 123,000. In many ways, it is a dynamic and well-run city with a strong tax base that helps the town pay for parks recreation ad cultural activities. In other ways, it’s the less charming version of Walnut Creek. The school scores here run middle to high.

Although homes and apartments are still going up, Concord’s boom days are over. The city is turning its energies to its downtown and filling in its empty space. These days, every home is expensive but Concord offers more variety in housing choices and lower prices than other Central County cities.

Walnut Creek
In recent years Walnut Creek has acquired a reputation for being, in a middle-class way, hip. The city has done a great job of putting together an entertaining downtown with many shops and restaurants and a bountiful list of things to do. Many people flock from neighboring towns to visit Crate and Barrel, Nordstrom and stop for a bite at P.F. Chang’s.

Walnut Creek epitomizes the culture and promise of the suburbs. Compared to other California schools, academic rankings and high, some very high. Crime is on the very low. And culture is on the up and up. Oh yes, and they have wonderful housing too!

Danville began as a farming town and is one of the few cities in the county to retain many of its historic buildings which makes it a very charming and authentic town. The city has picked up on this and added to it with old-fashioned lamps, pear trees, and brick and cobblestone paving.

The typical Danville home is not a mansion, (though we can find you one), but a tract home, one or two stories, 3-5 bedrooms. Nonetheless the town is considered upper-middle professional and even prestigious. Could it be because the school scores are very high, crime rate very low and downtown charming and sweet?

San Ramon
It must be because of its great location, but people have flocked in San Ramon. The commute is great if you are working locally but BART would be the best option for trips to San Francisco or the Silicon Valley (though most do drive.) The nearest BART station is 15 minutes north, in Walnut Creek.

Home prices here have soared in the past 10 years but it is definitely a hot spot for newlyweds looking to start a family.

Mt. Diablo
Mt. Diablo itself stands 3,849 feet high and is the center of Contra Costa county. In the winter, the mountain often has a peak of snow which never reaches its warm surrounding cities.

Mt. Diablo State park is 18,000 acres of trails, views, caves and camping. Just be on the lookout for the occasional mountain lion.

Noted economist and University of California professor John Kenneth Galbraith said about Berkeley : “I was suddenly overwhelmed by the thought that I loved this place — the paths, trees, flowers, buildings, even the new ones. I was deeply embarrassed.” Buying a home in Berkeley can definitely be overwhelming; the city is everything you've heard about, and more. At its heart, Berkeley is a cultural city, with every kind of culture – and consequently, every kind of art, food, music, entertainment, enlightenment – you can possibly imagine.

Berkeley is a famous city, the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement (which celebrated its 40 th anniversary in 2004) and People's Park. It's an intellectual city that cherishes education and activism above all else – except maybe good food. It's a neighborly city, with distinct communities ranging from students and young professionals in old Victorians, bungalows and apartment buildings near the campus, to the old guard in the hills in their spectacular stone houses with “three bridge” views (Golden Gate, Oakland Bay, and San Rafael). And finally, it's an incredibly scenic city, with beautiful architecture by Maybeck and Morgan, and a Mediterranean climate that keeps those paths and trees and flowers sunny and green almost all year long.

Emeryville is where you'll find Nemo, Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the Pixar gang. This small, hundred-year-old town at the foot of the Bay Bridge has morphed into a high-tech haven for companies like Pixar and Sybase, as well as the creative types who work there. Dozens of artists-in-residence also live in Emeryville; their annual Open Studio tours draw art lovers from all over the Bay Area. Residential properties for sale in Emeryville range from turn-of-the-century homes and renovated warehouses to new apartments, condos and lofts . On any given day there are probably more shoppers than residents in Emeryville, which is home to Ikea, Home Depot, and several other “big box” stores as well as a new 16-screen movie theater and scores of small shops and watering holes. And given Emeryville's central location on the waterfront, nestled between Berkeley and Oakland and surrounded by all the major freeways, getting from here to almost anywhere else is an ocean breeze.

The Top Reasons to Buy a House in Piedmont If You Can Possibly Afford To:
Piedmont High School's annual Bird Calling Contest winners get to appear on The Late Show with David Letterman.
Piedmont schools are some of the very best in the country with national scores in the top 30 percent.
Piedmont's crime rate is one of the lowest in the Bay Area.
Piedmont is ideally situated in the heart of the East Bay .
Piedmont is surrounded by a beautiful forest at the foot of the Oakland Hills.
Piedmont's real estate listings offer an abundance of gorgeous, stately 3- and 4-bedroom homes.
Piedmont Park has a panoramic view of San Francisco and Mt. Tamalpais.
Piedmont Avenue (not technically in Piedmont, but close enough) offers the Piedmont Cinema, Peet's Coffee, Fenton's Creamery, and dozens of other popular attractions.
Piedmont Community Church, an interdenominational and open-minded church, has nearly 1,000 members.

Berkeley may be the conscience of the Bay Area, but Oakland is most definitely its soul – and Oakland keeps it real. Real diversity, maybe more than any city in the United States. Real history, from the Gold Rush to the Black Panthers to the re-election of Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown. Real neighborhoods, from the Oakland Hills to Jack London Square. Real architecture, from turn-of-the-century Victorians and apartment buildings to the art deco Paramount Theatre to live-work lofts on the waterfront. And real smart people: more than one-third of Oakland 's 400,000 residents have a college degree, which is twice the national average. Oakland also ranks third in the nation for percentage of households with internet access, third in the U.S. in the number of women-owned businesses, and was listed as the 10 th best city for business in the country in 2001 by Forbes magazine.

So if you're smart – and you're searching for a home in an established community like Rockridge, with big oak trees and little corner stores, or in an up-and-coming urban space near City Center . . . and you'd like to spend an afternoon at sunny Lake Merritt, or an evening with the Oakland Symphony . . . and you enjoy Japanese food and jazz at Yoshi's, or hiphop and BBQ ribs at Everett & Jones . . . and you're an Oakland A's fan, or a member of the Raider Nation ... and you're into art at the Oakland Museum, or science at Chabot Space & Science Center, or family fun at the Children's Fairyland or the Oakland Zoo ... then Oakland is most definitely for you.

Alameda is an island, both literally and figuratively. As you cross the Oakland Estuary via the tunnel or one of the two bridges into Alameda , you might wonder if you've also gone back in time. The quaint downtown shops and thousands of Victorian and Queen Anne homes in Alameda have been preserved; it looks as though a parade might break out any minute. The town has more than a dozen parks and an accessible, sandy beach where you can watch the sun set across the bay. Amenities that attracted the well-heeled back in the day continue to flourish, including several golf courses, yacht clubs, marinas, first-class restaurants, and historic shopping districts. Progress, however, is lapping at Alameda 's shores. The closure in 1997 of the Alameda Naval Air Station has opened up 2,000 acres for the development of recreational, commercial and residential properties . High-tech firms, business parks, townhomes, apartment buildings and planned residential communities have already landed on the island. Arguments abound over how to chart Alameda's future without losing sight of its charming past.

San Leandro
Stretching from the East Bay shoreline just south of Oakland into the hills, San Leandro is both urban and suburban, attractive to professionals and families. It's a grownup town, solidly middle-class with a high percentage of homeowners and married couples. It is on the BART line and near the major freeways, making for an easy commute to San Francisco or Silicon Valley. Cal State Hayward and Chabot Community College are both minutes away. San Leandro is known for its affordable real estate in established neighborhoods with active neighborhood associations. The city center has been revitalized and the newly-renovated Bayfair Mall just added Kohl's department store and Bed, Bath & Beyond. San Leandro's firstclass waterfront is the site of the city's Cherry Festival, an annual event since 1909, as well as parks, golf courses, restaurants, and a 450-berth marina. And if all that doesn't float your boat, San Leandro is also home to Ricky's – one of the best sports bars on the planet, a home-away-from-home for not just the Raider Nation, but sports fans of all stripes.

Today's Dublin is a rapidly growing bedroom community on the BART line, something the two Irishmen who named the town back in 1853 could hardly have fathomed. Dublin's first schoolhouse and church are still standing, and members of the ill-fated Donner Party are still buried in its old cemetery. But the rest of Dublin is brand new and getting newer – its housing increased by 50 percent and its population by 72 percent in the last decade alone. Dublin lies among the green, rolling hills and valleys at the crossroads of Interstates 580 and 680. Commuting isn't bad, especially if you work at one of the huge business parks that have begun to crop up in the fields around Dublin. The town has high-scoring schools, a low crime rate and stores galore, including the new Hacienda Crossings mall – just a few of the reasons Dublin was named one of Money Magazine 's “Hottest Towns,” a list of the most desirable places to live in America. Buying a house in Dublin is clearly an excellent investment.

Pleasanton, Dublin's next-door neighbor and the next stop on the BART line, is also one of Money Magazine 's hottest towns. A big suburb with its own jobs, Pleasanton is using its economic power to attract upscale professionals and families. It's another charming, older town surrounded by newer attractions, with lots of wide open space and huge regional parks for swimming, hiking, and sports of every kind, as well as golf courses, tennis clubs and the oldest horse racing track in the country. Properties for sale range from well-tended, older houses and condos to extravagant homes in gated communities. Schools are excellent and teachers earn the highest pay in Alameda County. Pleasanton served as the location for “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” and several other movies and continues to disguise itself as small town, rural America, especially on Main Street in its historic downtown. It's also the site of the Alameda County Fairgrounds, which hosts more than 300 events each year. And if homemade jam isn't your thing, how about homemade wine? Pleasanton, located in the heart of the Alameda Wine Country, is putting new emphasis on fancy restaurants and California cuisine.

Castro Valley
Castro Valley, in the hills east of San Leandro, has a rich history, rife with gold diggers, gamblers, railroad men, chicken farmers and other pioneering types. Even today its citizens stubbornly refuse to incorporate, meaning that it is governed by a board of supervisors in Oakland . The local community really runs the show, however, and they are strong supporters of education, recreation and the arts. This is also horse country, unless you prefer archery, or baseball, or soccer, or golf, or the diverse activities at nearby Lake Chabot. Home-buyers will find well-maintained real estate here, surrounded by the vestiges of Castro Valley's orchards and redwood forests. Many of the town's historic buildings remain, but Bay Area suburbia is fast approaching. The hills are alive with the sound of new development to the east, as more housing goes up for Dublin/Pleasanton's high-tech workforce.

Hayward is the third most populous city in Alameda County. It may seem suburban, but it's actually one of the top 15 most ethnically-diverse communities in the nation. Signs at the city limits remind you that there's “No Room for Racism,” and Hayward appears to be devoted to its diversity. Known in the 1950s as “Apricot City” because of its orchards and canneries. Hayward has transformed from agricultural to multicultural, with affordable housing , shopping centers and light industry. It's also a college town, home to both California State University at Hayward and Chabot Community College. Hayward is spending lots of money on its schools, its infrastructure and its shoreline preserve, resulting in a new influx of upscale commercial and residential development. There are also lots of older homes, condos and townhomes for sale as well. If you're moving to Hayward but still have to commute, it's relatively easy in all directions by freeway, BART, bus, or even Amtrak.